‘Hands off our A&E’ was the message to come out of a protest rally with the community ready to fight to save the department at Calderdale Royal Hospital.
Around 300 people turned out to the event at a packed North Bridge Leisure Centre, Halifax, which was chaired by Labour MP candidate for the Calder Valley Josh Fenton-Glynn. Mr Fenton Glynn said: “It was fantastic to see so many people at such short notice. It sends quite a large and clear message to everybody making these decisions that people in Calderdale want our A&E and people across Huddersfield that want two A&Es. The closures aren’t safe, the distance people will have to travel aren’t safe and the idea of downgrading our hospital is something we are all going to fight against.
“It is not a fight against the different A&E departments and which one should be closed. It is about keeping both services we need.
Speeches were made by Halifax MP Linda Riordan, Tony Pearson from Unison, Gary Scott and Naveen Judah, Chair of Healthwatch Rotherham and Chair of Rotherham disability network.
Linda Riordan MP said: “We are here to fight for our NHS and it is our NHS.
“The decisions have been passed down to our local GPs and they get the unenviable task of deciding financially what is going to remain in Calderdale and what is going to remain in Huddersfield and it is about finance.
“It is not about saving lives. The founding principals of the NHS have been ripped up in front of our eyes. Lets get a clear message out to them ‘hands off our A&E. We can and we will save our A&E department and Calderdale Royal hospital.”
She said that a steering group would be set up after the meeting and confirmed that a mass rally in the town would take place in late April or early May.
Meanwhile, regional Unison head of health Tony Pearson said: “Both hospitals’ A&E departments are operating at near full capacity with 22,000 emergencies coming to Huddersfield and 23,000 to Calderdale.
“We don’t oppose changes where there is clear evidence that it will improve people’s lives but we don’t have this assurance here and this decision will affect a huge population.”
Suma Wholefoods Workers Cooperative employee Gary Scott had led a non-political march, through Halifax town centre last month, along with other angry residents against the A&E closure.
He urged as many people to get involved as possible, taking petitions to schools, nurseries, churches, sport clubs and for anyone to help with legal advice and marketing future protests and meetings.
“We are looking for people with all expertise. We can make an impact and make a difference if we all get involved with this.”
The next public meeting will take place on April 11 at the Kings Centre in Park Road at 6.30pm.